Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2022, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (7): 735-752.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2021.0386

• Review •     Next Articles

Modern processes of lacustrine plant sedimentary ancient DNA

WU Kai1, LI Kai1,*(), JIA Wei-Han2,3, LIAO Meng-Na1, NI Jian1   

  1. 1College of Chemistry and Life Sciences, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, Zhejiang 321004, China
    2Polar Terrestrial Environmental Systems Research Group, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam 14473, Germany
    3Institute of Environmental Science and Geography, University of Potsdam, Potsdam 14476, Germany
  • Received:2021-10-28 Accepted:2022-01-26 Online:2022-07-20 Published:2022-02-16
  • Contact: LI Kai
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(42177433);Natural Science Foundation of Zhejiang Province(LY20D010002)


Study on paleovegetation is with great significance on understanding the modern vegetation composition, distribution, and its responses to global change. During recent decades, it has been a rapidly developing field in molecular palaeoecology to track the long-term vegetation composition and plant diversity changes by using sedimentary ancient DNA. Meanwhile, the lacustrine sedimentary ancient plant DNA (PsedaDNA) is becoming a popular proxy for palaeovegetation and palaeoecological studies. However, the modern process of PsedaDNA remains unclear compared with pollen analysis, which limits its further application. Here, we reviewed the PsedaDNA researches and tried to elucidate the modern processes of PsedaDNA, including the source, deposition, and preservation processes, and to understand the relationships between the PsedaDNA and modern vegetation. PsedaDNA is mainly derived from the lake surroundings or within the catchment. The abundance and composition of PsedaDNA are influenced by the biomass of terrestrial plants, and factors such as DNA degradation, the adsorption, and dilution of particles in soils and sediments during the transportation and deposition. Moreover, the preservation of PsedaDNA is largely affected by both biotic and abiotic factors, including the microbial activity, chemical properties of lake water (conductivity and pH), and sediment composition. PsedaDNA can be used to reveal the contemporary vegetation and climate information but was incompetent to quantitatively palaeovegetation reconstruction. Considering the complexity of modern processes, the interpretation of PsedaDNA results should be done with extra caution. To sum up, PsedaDNA is still in its infancy, which has been benefiting from the progress of molecular biotechnology, optimization of experimental design, species barcodes, and sophistication of reference databases. The PsedaDNA technique including DNA metabarcoding and metagenomics will certainly promote the development of Chinese palaeophytoecology research.

Key words: lake sedimentation, ancient plant DNA, taphonomy, vegetation representativeness, palaeovegetation, palaeoecology